Q:How has Delta government realised human capital and infrastructural developments, which are part of its three-point agenda?
A:A lot of our projects are mega projects as I call them because they need different budget cycles for them to be actualised. But the truth is that as gigantic as these projects are now, nobody can deny their existence and the impact of these projects is already being felt by the people. Which are you starting from? Are you starting with infrastructure projects which have to do with roads/bridges across the state and across all major cities?
You know we keep reminding people that Delta is a multi-city state not like most states which when you impact one or two cities, you will say you’ve done a great job.
The very onerous thing about Delta is that as we speak, whatever you want to use as a yardstick in Asaba must be going on in Ughelli, must be going on in Agbor, must be going on in Warri, Kwale and all riverine areas even in Burutu, Patani and Bomadi, so we have that situation where the infrastructural revolution as I might call it is going on simultaneously all over the state.
Then you come to our social programmes where a lot of resources are also being expended like the health programme we have here: the free under-5, free maternal, free rural health care programme and all that. You go to the education sector, the same thing; we have major infrastructural improvements in all our educational institutions.
We have delivered fifty model schools as I speak to you now of world class standard. When we started talking about it people thought we were just talking. All over the state, over two hundred of such schools are being refurbished, if you go to all the nooks and crannies of our villages, you will find all those schools being done. These are the things we’ve been doing, like I said while doing that we appreciate the human capital development aspect of it.
We have to have first class teachers to teach in these environments because we want our children to have the best environment to be taught because that is how we believe that they can develop the kind of confidence to become world class citizens. A lot of money is also going into the training and retraining of teachers.
When you come to the micro & small enterprises (MSE) which has been globally acknowledged, that is a runaway success in Delta. There is a revolving credit which the government provides through microfinance banks to the poorest of the poor of our people. That’s why it’s a great initiative, it’s a pro-poor initiative to impact on the most vulnerable of the society even blind people, you see the kind of things they were doing I am sure you were all around at the Good Governance Tour and you saw the massive exhibition, both the ones that are in fishing, the ones that are in farming, the ones that are making various food spices which are now being sold all over the world and these monies are also being repaid. Go to the areas of culture and tourism. Don’t forget all these things we are doing are at the back of the three-point agenda which is infrastructure development, human capital development and peace and security.
The three-point agenda is one way of looking at how we are going to reposition this state beyond the advent of oil. Therefore, tourism is a major plank of this as well and government through the PPP initiative has developed that massive Team Park in Oleri, Udu. There is a British company that is championing the development but what government has done is to provide conducive environment in terms of infrastructure. I think you went there and you saw the bridge that was built there. That place was a terrible marsh land, waste-land, it has to be totally reclaimed; there was a big river that was separating both sides of the land and now with the bridge, real big development has begun.
You know that is a lot of money government has expended over there but major tenant clients are the ones that will come and develop that place, you have a Team Park, you have shopping malls, five and three star hotels, and everything is going to be fine. It’s just going to be our own version of Disney land because what are we doing, we are looking at tourism, attracting tourists to come and spend their hard earned foreign resources in Delta. It is that same thing we are also taking into health sector in what we call medical tourism and that is why the Teaching Hospital in Oghara has embarked on that kind of revolutionary improvement.
If you go there today you can do knee and heap replacement surgery, we have all the gadgets used in doing all types of surgery, we have all the latest gadgets for scans and I know government has signed an agreement with a university in the United States of America where we are going to be having a facilitation of movement of top personnel where all levels of the highest of consultancy we need will be readily available in Oghara because we now have state-of-the-art facilities. Again, those who go to India spending hard earned foreign exchange can now do it here in Oghara. The whole idea is that we want to open up the economy and that is the way we have been going in all facets of the areas.
Of course, you know what we have done in the transport sector. I think you know that is where we have done massive investment, because if you look at the Warri Free Trade Zone, the port that we are developing in Koko and Warri and then you look at the airport in Asaba, what you are going to have is a ring road axis and then you put that side by side the Asaba-Ughelli dualisation, we want to form a ring road around the state and why are we doing this? Asaba is so strategically located. Onitsha is perhaps the biggest market in sub-Saharan Africa just five, ten minutes away. What we want to do now is that that airport is going to be both a cargo and international airport. The cargo section of it is going to be handled by the Federal Government, so that has nothing to do with the state government. They are the ones that have realised that the kind of farming and cash crops in this area, Asaba can be the hub for them to be taken out. Considering the industrial kind of base there in Onitsha market and you can imagine the kind of traffic we are talking about. Same thing when the Ughelli-Asaba dualisation which is still under construction at three sections where work is being done simultaneously which is one of the projects we are using the bond which is irrevocably tied to it, will reduce the incidence of over reliance on the ports in Lagos, which is already causing a huge hiccup in our economy. Big ships can start berthing in Warri and Koko, the only problem now is that some dredging need to be done and obviously that is a Federal Government situation, but we are looking at all that, then that way we can also facilitate commerce and our brothers in the East can start using Warri Port for businesses instead of going to Lagos for their containers and all that.
Can you tell us the current status of the Warri Industrial Park?
Of course, there is the Warri Industrial Park, which is the biggest of the projects? Government was supposed to be a facilitator when the idea was first muted, but obviously, the company that had that great idea did not have the resources to take it to where it was going to and at which time government had already committed itself and now government has become the chief driver of that project because it is such a noble project.
What Warri Industrial Park will do is that it will complement the EGTL (Gas to Liquid) project in Escravos which already employed over ten thousand people. The Warri Industrial Park will add another twenty thousand people. We will get massive clients that will come there because it is an Industrial Park with all kinds of companies, all kinds of heavy level manufacturing concerns will be under one umbrella.
We have had a lot of problems concerning compensation for the land, but I think all that is gone now. We have done a lot of infrastructure work to put the place in order and I know that a lot of the clients are coming in and development has started.
So, what this administration under Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has done is to lay a solid ground work for both the industrial and economic take off of Delta State.
Again, if you come down to Asaba, another of the great projects we are using to actualise the ‘Delta beyond Oil’ is the ICT Park and already the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has started building its bridge institute at Ugbolu, massive infrastructure work has been done and government is also going to commit a lot of fund.
As I said, many of these projects, because of how gigantic they are, may not be completed in the life span of this government, but the most important thing is that we would have taken them to a level where they will be irreversible because these indeed are projects that can only benefit the people of Delta State because all the negatives we have in Delta, whether kidnapping or robbery, has to do with lack of jobs apart from the fact that some of our people do not want to work anyway.
We want to make sure that with the provision of infrastructure from the setting up stage to when they are ready there should just be channelling and churning out of jobs for the teeming youths of Delta State.
One area that many Deltans appear not comfortable is on local government election. When will it hold?
It’s a matter of law if you ask me. This is because I think the bill for DSIEC has been sent to the House of Assembly, membership I know was constituted, I think there was a problem, and I think that is being sorted out. The minute that bill is out from the House, the governor will sign it into law. He has a transitional council in place which already is in progress, the day that council was inaugurated I had never seen that number of cars at the Government House in terms of attendance.
That shows that people are hungry for development at that tier of government. They came en masse and they supported it and I think those people have been delivering on their mandate, but like you said the ultimate is to have a full democratic structure in place at the local government and once those things are taken care of I am sure elections would be held.
Do you think DESOPADEC is necessary in Delta State?
Let me tell you the truth, DESOPADEC’s mandate is clear and unambiguous. Someone like me should not even be too happy about DESOPADEC because one penny of DESOPADEC does not come to my own area, but I appreciate that those areas that provide us with oil resources from where we get those money go through a lot of degradation, through a lot of pollution.
Their rivers, their land, their farms, buildings have been affected. If you go to some places, you see their roofs have all turned black because of hydrocarbon and all that burnings and gas flaring that go on around those areas. Those areas deserve and need special intervention.
It’s just like saying NDDC is not necessary in Nigeria, why should anybody say that when you know that the whole of the Niger Delta region is responsible for the oil that keeps the wheel of progress in this country moving and we know the after effect we suffer as a result. You need to see the kind of suffering people go through because they inhale all these poisonous fumes and encounter crude spilling everywhere and all that.
So, definitely, what you should say and I agree with you is that we should get the right people into those places and let them understand what their mandate is and I think from this last crop of people there were quite some credible people there, the chairman who is also a member of Delta State economic team is a very credible person and I think he understands the mandate and I think he can steer the ship of that board into making the necessary impact they have to make in those areas, so I don’t believe that DESOPADEC is not needed.
What is your take on the security challenges in the state?
We are spending on security, but we are not in control, that is the problem. This goes back to the constitution as a federation, you have the Federal Government that enjoys the exclusive list and the security agencies, the prisons are all under it. Now, you have an aberration of the state governor who you call chief security officer in a state but he has no control or any kind of force even the ones that follow him up and about the place, they report under a unitary structure to the IG in Abuja or if it’s the military to the chief of army staff and then the commander-in-chief.
So, what I’m trying to say is that that is a problem of our federalism and I think this is one major area we should look at. How do states enhance their security, because you see, a governor cannot be held responsible for what he is not responsible for. He doesn’t determine how many policemen or soldiers or what level of intelligent work goes into their operation.
In any civilised society, like the UK or in America, you don’t see any policeman or army anywhere near you but just commit any crime and in one second they all would be all over you and you will wonder where they come out from. This is because they have all sorts of gadgets and equipment that is what we should be talking about, and you know it costs a lot of money.
This anyway is what we have been doing; otherwise things would have been twenty times worse, especially the kidnapping aspect of crime. We invested in the state-of-the-art intelligence equipment to combat kidnapping in Delta State and that is why it has come down. So, what I am saying is that basically, we need to do something about the constitution of the country with regard to the security of the state.
The last time there was flood in the state, the Federal Government released N500 million to Delta. Up till now the victims have not been attended to. Why?
No, the money as I know is intact. This governor has been very prudent and very accountable. You see, a lot of studies were made; you don’t just start to make a lot of mistakes we make in Nigeria where you try and do what you think is the solution before you even identify what the problem is and that way you are just wasting resources. So, we commissioned Nigerians of the highest level. The vice chancellor of Delta State University, Abraka, is the chairman.
They have brought the report of the committee which is going through analysis. In the time being, there have been some medium-term interventions where crop seedlings and all that have been taken to these farmers who are back from the camps. Now, the real intervention I can assure you is about to start because the report, like a white paper on those studies, is just about to be released.